The appropriate role of the government in the economy has been a source of controversy in the United States from its very origins. Perhaps the earliest articulation of the government's nurturing role with regard to the composition of the economy was Alexander Hamilton's 1791 Report on Manufactures in which he urged an activist approach by the federal government. At the time, Hamilton's views were controversial, although subsequent U.S. policy has largely reflected his beliefs.
Driven both by the exigencies of national defense and the requirements of transportation and communication across the American continent, the federal government has played an instrumental role in the development of new production techniques and technologies. In the early years of the republic, the federal government laid the foundation for the first machine tool industry with a contract for interchangeable musket parts.1 A few decades later, in 1842, a hesitant Congress appropriated funds to demonstrate the feasibility of Samuel Morse's telegraph.2
During both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the federal government has had an enormous impact on the structure and composition of the economy through infrastructure development, regulation, procurement, and a vast array of policies to support industrial and agricultural development.3 Between World War I and World War II, these policies included support for the development of key industries, which we would now call dual-use, such as radios and aircraft frames and engines. The requirements of World War II generated a huge increase in government procurement and support for high-technology industries. At the industrial level, there were "major collaborative initiatives in pharmaceutical manufacturing, petrochemicals, synthetic robber, and atomic weapons." 4 An impressive array of weapons based on new technologies was developed during the war, ranging from radar and improved aircraft, to missiles and, not least, the atomic bomb. Following the war, the federal government began to fund basic research at universities on a significant scale, first through the Office of Naval Research and later through the National Science Foundation.5
During the Cold War, the United States continued to emphasize technological superiority as a means of ensuring U.S. security. Government funds and cost-plus contracts helped to support systems and enabling technologies such as semiconductors and new materials, radar, jet engines, computer hardware and software, and missiles. For example, the government played a central role in the creation of the first electronic digital computer, the ENIAC.6 In the post-Cold War period, the evolution of the American economy continues to be profoundly marked by government-funded research in areas such as microelectronics,
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, New York, 1995, pp. 9–12. For a more detailed account, see Robert Luther Thompson, Wiring a Continent: The History of the Telegraph Industry in the United States 1823–1836. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1947.
robotics, biotechnology, the human genome, and through investments in communications networks such as ARPANET—the forerunner of today's Internet.
Despite the important role the U.S. government has played in the development of the American economy, there is little consensus concerning the principle of government participation, although this may in part reflect limited knowledge about past and current government efforts to foster new technologies. There is also considerable debate about the appropriate mechanisms of participation. At the same time, in light of rising costs, substantial risks and the breadth of potential applications of new technologies, some believe that a supportive government policy framework is needed if new, welfare-enhancing and wealth-generating technologies are to be developed and brought to the market.
Since 1991 the National Research Council's Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) has undertaken a program of activities to improve policy makers' understanding of the interconnections of science, technology, and economic policy and their importance for the American economy and its international competitive position. The Board's activities have corresponded with increased policy recognition of the importance of technology to economic growth. The new economic growth theory emphasizes the role of technology creation, which is believed to be characterized by significant growth externalities. 7 A consequence of the renewed appreciation of growth externalities is recognition of the economic geography of economic development. With growth externalities coming about in part from the exchanges of knowledge among innovators, certain regions become centers for particular types of high growth activities.8
In addition, some economists have suggested limitations to traditional trade theory, particularly with respect to the reality of imperfect international competition.9 Recent economic analysis suggests that high-technology is often characterized by increasing rather than decreasing returns, justifying to some the proposition that governments can capture permanent advantage in key industries by providing relatively small, but potentially decisive support to bring national industries up the learning curve and down the cost curve. In part, this is why the economic literature now recognizes the relationship between technology policy and trade policy.10 Recognition of these linkages and the corresponding ability
of governments to shift comparative advantage in favor of the national economy provides intellectual underpinning for government support for high-technology industry.11 Another widely recognized rationale for government support for high-technology exists in cases where technology generates benefits beyond those which can be captured by innovating firms, often referred to as spillovers.12 There are also cases where the cost of given technology may be prohibitive for individual companies, even though expected benefits to society are substantial and widespread.13
The growth in government programs to support high-technology industry within national economies and their impact on international science and technology cooperation and on the multilateral trading system are of considerable interest worldwide. Accordingly, these topics were taken up by STEP in a study carried out in conjunction with the Hamburg Institute for Economic Research and the Institute for World Economics in Kiel. One of the principal recommendations for further work emerging from that study was a call for an analysis of the principles of effective cooperation in technology development, to include lessons from national and international consortia, including eligibility standards and assessments of what new cooperative mechanisms might be developed to meet the challenges of international cooperation in high-technology products.14
In many high-technology industries, the burgeoning development costs for new technologies, the dispersal of technological expertise, the growing importance of regulatory standards, and environmental issues have provided
and A.S. Kyle, "The Use of Protection and Subsidies for Entry Promotion and Deterence," American Economic Review, vol. 75, 1985, pp. 139–152, and P. Krugman and M. Obstfeldt, International Economics: Theory and Policy. 3rd Edition. New York, 1994.
powerful incentives for public-private cooperation. Notwithstanding the unsettled policy environment in Washington, collaborative programs have expanded substantially with perhaps as many as seventy federal cooperative technology programs currently underway.15 Under the Reagan administration, after much debate, SEMATECH was established to address the competitive challenge facing the semiconductor industry.16 During the Bush administration, Congress first funded the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Advanced Battery Consortium was created. The Clinton administration came to office with an emphasis on civilian technology programs, substantially expanding the ATP and creating the Technology Reinvestment Program (TRP).17 The rapid expansion of some programs encountered significant opposition, rekindling the national debate on the appropriate role of the government in fostering new technologies. Indeed, broader philosophical questions about the appropriate role for government in collaborating with industry have tended to obscure the need for policy makers to draw lessons from current and previous collaborative efforts.
Given the considerable change in federal research and development budgets since the end of the Cold War, and the reduced role of many centralized laboratories in the private sector, government-industry collaboration is of growing importance, yet it has seen remarkably little objective analysis. At one level, analysis may contribute to a better appreciation of the role of collaboration between government and industry in the development of the U.S. economy. Writing twenty years ago, one well-known American economist observed that Americans are still remarkably uninformed about the long history of policies aimed at stimulating innovation.18 Today, many Americans seem to appreciate the contribution
of new technologies to the current, robust economic growth. Yet there is little evidence that Americans are aware of the contributions of federal support for technological innovation, from radio to computers to the Internet.19
In addition to a better understanding of how the U.S. economy developed and the supportive role the government played in its development, careful assessment of support for new technologies can be called for because government intervention in the market can be fraught with risk. There are cases of major success resulting from federal support to the computer or semiconductor industries, where the Department of Defense served as a source of R&D and as a reliable, early buyer of products and later through its support for SEMATECH.20,21 There are also cases of major frustration. Landmarks would include projects such as the Supersonic Transport and the Synfuels Corporation.22 Regular assessment is vital to ensure continued technical viability, though cost-sharing requirements can be an effective safeguard. Assessment can also help avoid "political capture" of projects, especially large commercial demonstration efforts.23 Even successful collaborations face the challenge of adapting programs to rapidly changing technologies. 24 Assessment thus becomes a means of keeping programs relevant. Assessment can also have the virtue of reminding policymakers of the need for humility before the "black box" of innovation. As one observer notes,
Barfield and William A. Schambra, eds., American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, D.C., 1986, pp. 33–62.
"experience argues for hedged commitments, constant reappraisal, maintenance of options, and pluralism of advice and decision-makers."25
From an international perspective, understanding the benefits and challenges of these programs is also important insofar as they have been, and remain, a central element in the national development strategies of both industrial and industrializing countries. Governments have shown a great deal of imagination in their choice of mechanisms designed to support industry. They have adopted a wide range of policies from trade regulations designed to protect domestic products from foreign competition, to tax rebates intended to stimulate the export of selected domestic products. They provide government R&D funding for enterprises of particular interest, and sometimes give overt support through direct grants, loans, and equity investments or more opaque support through mechanisms such as tax deferral.26 Data collected by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development suggest that worldwide government expenditures on support for high-technology industries involve significant resources and are increasingly focused on what policy makers consider to be strategic industries.27
The United States is an active, if unavowed, participant in this global competition, at both the state and the federal level. Indeed, the United States has a remarkably wide range of public-private partnerships in high-technology sectors.28 In addition to the well-known cases mentioned above, there are public-private consortia of many types. They can be classified in a number of ways, such as by the economic objective of the partnership, that is, to leverage the social benefits associated with federal R&D activity, to enhance the position of a national industry, or to deploy industrial R&D to meet military or other government missions.29 An illustrative list would include partnerships in sectors such as electronic storage, flat panel displays, turbine technologies, new textile manufacturing techniques, new materials, magnetic storage, next generation vehicles, batteries, biotechnology, optoelectronics, and ship construction. The list would also include programs such as the national manufacturing initiative, the National
Science Foundation's (NSF) engineering research centers, NSF's science and technology centers, NIST's Manufacturing Extension Program, and the multi-agency Small Business Innovation Research Program, among others. University-industry cooperation is also on the upswing, with a significant percentage of university R&D now supported by industry and through innovative cooperation efforts such as Semiconductor Industry Association's MARCO program. In addition, there are extensive cooperative agreements with the national laboratories. The proliferation of these programs provides a rich base of experience for assessment.
Project Steering Committee
The expansion of cooperative activities highlights the need for better understanding of the opportunities and limitations of these programs and the conditions most likely to ensure success. Reflecting the interest of policy makers in this topic, the STEP Board initiated the project on "Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies," which has benefited from broad support among federal agencies. These include the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Sandia National Laboratories, and the Electric Power Research Institute, as well as a diverse group of private corporations (listed in the front matter). To carry out this analysis, the STEP Board has assembled a distinguished multidisciplinary steering committee for this assessment of government-industry partnerships, chaired by Gordon Moore, the Chairman Emeritus of Intel (the Committee is also listed in the front matter). The committee's principal tasks are to provide overall direction and relevant expertise in the assessment of the issues raised by the project. At the conclusion of the project, the steering committee will develop a consensus report outlining their findings and recommendations on the issues reviewed by the project.
As a basis for the consensus report, the steering committee has undertaken to commission research and convene a series of fact-finding meetings in the form of workshops, symposia, and conferences as a means of informing its deliberations. The symposium on the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) represents one element of this fact-finding effort. It is the fourth in a series of fact-finding meetings convened under the auspices of the STEP Board and under the direction of the steering committee.30
A number of distinguished individuals deserve recognition for their willingness to review this report. These individuals were chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review process: Dr. Robert Archibald, The College of William and Mary; Dr. David Audretsch, Indiana University; Robert H. Wilson, University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Albert Link, University of North Carolina, Greensboro; Dr. John Scott, Dartmouth University; Dr. Mary Good, Venture Capital Investors; and Dr. Maryann Feldman, Johns Hopkins University. We are especially grateful for the contributions of the report coordinator, Dr. France Córdova. The reviewers have provided constructive comments and suggestions; however, it must be emphasized that responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy and the National Research Council. We would also like to thank the many members of the NIST staff who generously contributed their time and expertise. Recognition is also due to the STEP staff responsible for the preparation of the conference and the report. Dr. John Horrigan deserves special recognition for his instrumental role in preparing the report and for his many substantive contributions to the introduction. Similarly, Laura Holliday, and more recently, McAlister Clabaugh, provided invaluable assistance in the organization of the meeting and the preparation of this report. Their interest, commitment, and willingness to work long hours enabled us to accommodate NIST's January request to organize a conference and prepare a summary report by September amidst the other activities of the Government-Industry Partnerships Project.
Given the quality and number of presentations at this second symposium, summarizing the proceedings was a challenge. Every effort was made to capture the main points made during presentations and ensuing discussions, within the constraints imposed by the nature of a symposium summary. We apologize in advance for inadvertent errors and omissions in the summary. We also take this opportunity to thank our speakers and participants for making their experience and expertise available to the Advanced Technology Program and the Academies analysis of the program. Finally, we emphasize that the proceedings that follow do not include formal findings or recommendations of the Academies. The
objective of this volume is to capture the different perspectives of the participants on the objectives, operations, and assessment of the Advanced Technology Program and thereby contribute to a better understanding of the program and the role of government and industry in bringing new technologies to the marketplace.
CHARLES W. WESSNER